Scott Coker has reached into his never-ending bag of tricks yet again with the announcement of the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 Heavyweight Tournament.
Perhaps I’m a sucker for the gimmick of it all, or maybe it just harkens back to the glory days of MMA. Either way, this eight-man tournament has the combat sports world reminiscing about the good old days. Gone are the days of the tournament-style ranking system that was used in the early days of mixed martial arts; choosing No. 1 contenders is a much more arbitrary task now.
Bellator’s World Grand Prix kicks off Jan. 20 with the first-round match-up of newly re-signed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Chael Sonnen. The first thing that stands out in this match-up is that neither guy is a true heavyweight fighter. Rampage has been flirting with the idea of moving to heavyweight for some time, so the move makes sense for him, but for Sonnen, I’ve got to think he is a one-and-done in this competition.
The next match is slated for Feb. 16, where we will be treated to heavyweight rematch between The Ultimate Fighter 10 participants Matt Mitrione and eventual TUF winner Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Both guys are true heavyweights, and I honestly think the winner of this match has a serious chance at being crowned the tournament winner and new Bellator heavyweight champion.
Light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader is looking to become the first fighter in Bellator history to hold two championship belts at the same time, but he will have to get past Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. Unlike Rampage and Sonnen, I think that Bader has a real chance at making a run at heavyweight title. Yes, he is a small heavyweight, but his wrestling will help him out immensely and his hands have improved with each outing. Bader is my dark horse pick to win the Grand Prix.
Rounding out the field of eight, Frank Mir is set to make his promotional debut against the man who is widely considered the greatest fighter of all time, Fedor Emelianenko. This is one of those dream matches I thought I would never get to see. Better late than never, right? I think this fight could live up to the hype as I don’t believe Mir is done yet, and when Fedor is fighting, it’s must-watch TV.
With the lame state of the heavyweights in MMA now a days, Scott Coker and Bellator have found a way for the fans to once again get excited about the big guys. Next year could be the year of the heavyweights.